Open Ears is a Kitchener Festival of Music and Sound, the goal of which is hearing new things, or old things in new ways. This year’s theme is environments.
The KW Symphony is a major sponsor, and the first Open Ears event we attended was indeed a Symphony concert at Centre in the Square. Called “Sound Explorations,” the first half featured R. Murray Schafer’s “The Darkly Splendid Earth: The Lonely Traveller,” with concert master Stephen Sitarski walking to different parts of the stage to play his various moody solos. It ended with Benjamin Britten’s “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,” a very lively tour through every instrument in the symphony. And in between, we got John Cage’s 4’33”. That would be four minutes and thirty-three seconds of the various sections of the orchestra raising their instruments, yet none of them ever playing a note.
So, yeah, that was different. But not that different. And certainly not in a different environment.
So this weekend, we explored. We went out to downtown Kitchener for a 10:30 PM concert by a band called The Books, at a club called The Gig. The Books’ thing is sampling sound, and films, and writing songs around them, but on acoustic instruments. Their entire show had visuals, from home movies, old films, TV clips, whatever. The songs they come up with range from the quite lovely and touching to the completely confounding and dissonant. It’s a lot to take in, actually. So the hour or so they played was about right.
But though done with The Books, we weren’t done, not quite yet—even though it was now approaching midnight. Instead we went on to a Blue Dot event at The Tannery. We were even less sure what this was supposed to be (the brochure said an experiential metophor. Gee, thanks, that’s helpful), or what The Tannery was, exactly.
Turns out that The Tannery is an old warehouse, converted to a nightclub kind of thing. The whole place was somewhat dimly lit, with use of blue light in one section, art slides projected on one wall, a film loop of something like an Olympic gymnast projected on another wall, various physical art pieces on display, a DJ playing electronica, a Bohemian crowd (we were guessing, mostly in their 20s?)… It certainly created an intriguing atmosphere. So we went to the upper level and took it in.
About a half hour, maybe 45 minutes after we arrived, we were all ushered into another room for an art event. This turned out to be three guys—one of whom was hunky KW conductor Edwin Outwater—each standing on a podium thingie, each swinging a speaker, with a lights, from a rope, over their heads. Meanwhile, the artist adjusted the sound from this central console. At some points all the room lights went out, leaving only the illumination from the swinging speaker thingies, creating a kind of strobe effect.
It was pretty cool, actually. Though looked absolutely exhausting to participate in.
(YouTube video of this performance—not from Kitchener, of course).
Then it was back to the big club room, as the music was to be playing all night.
Of course, we’re too old for that kind of thing, so we stay much longer, thereby missing out on whatever other coolness ensued. But we certainly did experience new sounds in new environments.
And then this morning, CBC Radio gave me a new appreciation of disco music. But that’s a subject for another day.